Punjab hooch tragedy: 12 more held, taking total arrests to 37; toll crosses 100

Chandigarh: Twelve more people, including two businessmen, have been arrested in connection with the hooch tragedy in Punjab that claimed more than 100 lives so far, police said on Monday.

A manhunt has been launched for Ludhiana-based paint business owner Rajesh Joshi, who had initially allegedly supplied the three drums of spurious liquor that had triggered the wave of deaths.

Chief Minister Amarinder Singh directed Director General of Police Dinkar Gupta to apprehend every single person involved in the case and ensure stringent action against each of them, according to a statement.

“Nobody should be spared,” Singh said.

The total number of arrests has gone up to 37, including five kingpins of the illicit liquor mafia that spanned several districts of the state.

A manhunt has been launched for eight more identified suspects, including Joshi, believed to be a key player in the mafia chain, the DGP said.

Investigations are on to identify other links. Efforts are also on to identify various supply routes across districts since there were multiple buyers of Joshi, the state police chief said.

Among the arrests made in the past 24 hours is Ravinder Singh Anand from Moga district.

Anand, who runs a factory that manufactures mechanical jacks, had bought three cans of 200 litres each of the spurious liquor at Rs 11,000 a drum from the Ludhiana businessman. He had recently started manufacturing hand sanitisers, the DGP said.

From Ravinder, three drums went to Avtar Singh, who sold it for Rs 28,000 a drum to Harjit Singh and his two sons, residents of a village in Tarn Taran district, Gupta said.

Harjit Singh and his sons paid Rs 50,000, with balance still pending, and hid the drums in bushes near their village. Further probe have revealed that they gave 42 bottles worth of spurious spirit from the drums to Gobinder Singh for Rs 6,000, the officer said.

Each of these bottles was diluted by him by 10 per cent to make 46 bottles, which he sold to the sons of Balwinder Kaur, an accused, on 28 and 29 July in two instalments of 23 bottles each, according to the DGP.

Kaur, the first person to be arrested in the case, had further diluted the alcohol by adding 50 percent water and sold a bottle of the diluted spirit for Rs 100, Gupta said.

Ravinder Singh has revealed that he was an associate of a Moga-based paint store owner named Ashwini Bajaj, who has been arrested.

Ravinder Singh’s questioning disclosed the involvement of Joshi, who is evading arrest, Gupta said.

Initial investigation indicated that Gobinder, Ravinder, Darshana Rani, Triveni Chouhan and Harpreet Singh were among the key accused and their links with other major mafia gang members were being ascertained, the DGP said.

Meanwhile, the Punjab Police has launched a departmental inquiry against two deputy superintendents of police and four station house officers have been suspended for negligence.

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